Wednesday, February 17, 2010


Self hypnosis is something that is a really useful tool. I hope that my newsletters are starting to teach people why relaxation is so important. Just a short burst of self hypnosis can help you with many aspects of your life. Follow these simple instructions and start noticing the benefits today!

1. Take yourself somewhere quiet and comfortable. You could lie down on your bed, your sofa or if you fear you may fall asleep sit somewhere snug. Make sure you are not going to be disturbed, turn off your phone and ask others not to disturb you.
2. Close your eyes and try to rid your mind of any feelings of fear, anxiety or stress. If thoughts pop into your mind just allow them to stay for as long as they need then slowly let them disappear.
3. Begin to focus on your breathing making sure you are taking deep breaths in and then exhaling fully. You could try 7 – 11 breathing. Breathing in for a count of 7 and out for a count of 11. Begin to visualise breathing out tension and anxiety and breathing in calm and relaxation.
4. Start recognising the tension in your body. Start with either your head or toes. See the tension in the area. Allow it to float away with the next out breath. See the area calm, relaxed, lighter and lighter. If you are a visual person you may like to imagine a healing light around you that you suck into your body, see it swirling around calming each area it travels through but remember to see that tension leaving with every out breath. Move on to the next part of your body once the area you are focusing on has relaxed. From your head down or your toes up. With each breath feel yourself sinking deeper and deeper into the surface beneath you.
5. Once you have relaxed your entire body see yourself at the top of a 10 step staircase. Slowly walk down the stairs in your mind, relaxing more and more deeply as you step down each stair. Really see each step and feel more and more relaxed as you go further down. Counting down from 10 – 1 as you go.
6. Once you have reached the bottom allow the visualisation of the stairs to simply drift away. See yourself in your favourite place. This could be lying in the middle of a football pitch or relaxing on a beach. Just allow yourself to remain in that place for as long as feels comfortable.
7. When you are ready and you feel that it is the right time to continue the rest of your day simply get the image of the staircase back in your mind. Slowly and steadily walk back up the stairs in your mind, feeling more and more awake with each step that you take. Count up the stairs from 1 – 10. When you reach 8 say to yourself at the count of 10 you are going to open your eyes feeling fully refreshed and invigorated. On the count of 10 open your eyes. Take some time to appreciate the feeling, when you are ready get up and continue with your day.

For those that want to use this practise it regularly and next month I will add in some work that you can do for specific problems. It is important to practise though as self hypnosis is a learnt skill.


Why Hypnosis is about TAKING control, not losing it – using your own mind to control your own body.

Many people believe that when under hypnosis one loses control. The reason for this common view is simply a lack of knowledge and an abundance of stage hypnosis. Almost everyone has seen a stage hypnosis show on television or in a pub. These shows give the impression that the hypnotist has control of his subjects. Many news articles also give this point of view. This is however not correct. The subjects in a stage hypnosis show are in full control of their actions. There are various reasons why they do what they are asked but control is not one of them.

Hypnosis is in fact about taking back control. Many people see a hypnotherapist to learn how to take back control of their life. Other people are able to do this themselves and some do not even realise they have an opportunity to do so!

Weight loss is a massive issue in our country today. Almost everyone you speak to is trying to lose weight or at least ‘watching their weight’. Many of my clients are seeing me for weight loss; often they think that I am going to put a magic spell into their head that will make them suddenly slimmer. Unfortunately it is not quite as simple as that. My job is initially to help find the reasons for the over eating and then teach my client how to take back control of their body and mind. When we over eat it is due to a lack of control. For lots of people, no matter how much they know they should not eat whatever is in front of them they cannot stop themselves. Taking back that control of your mind and body means that you can stop yourself.

A study has been conducted to show that only 1 in 5 gym members use the gym at least twice a week, what is the reason many people cannot get the motivation to go to the gym? Again - a lack of control in their own mind and body. As you learn how to take back that control you can use the power of your mind to motivate yourself to exercise more often. More exercise and good healthy foods, less of the bad stuff or just less in general can only result in one thing... you goddit!

I also see a lot of people experiencing panic attacks. Panic attacks are not a result of an actual fear but a fear of the fear itself, the physical manifestations of high anxiety. It may begin with you going into a shopping centre and getting lost. You panic and feel terrified. The next time you go to the shopping centre as soon as you walk in you have a panic attack. The memories of the last time you were in this place cause your subconscious mind to feel panic and your heart starts to beat fast, you sweat, shake etc. A week later you need to go to the shopping centre again. In the days running up to this you begin to worry that you will have a panic attack again. This worry starts the heart racing and before you know it you’re having another panic attack. The thought of getting lost is gone. The fear is now all about the panic attacks. You begin to become someone that “suffers from panic attacks”, every time you have to go out you start to worry that you will have a panic attack. Although this can be quite a long process, before long you stop going out unless you have to, simply because you are afraid that if you do you will have a panic attack. Another perfect example of a lack of control.

If I had a client experiencing this I would initially take them back to the first panic attack and try to find out the reason that they panicked so extremely in the first place. I would help them to realise that there was no need for the panic. They were in a safe place, there would have been many information points in the area to ask for guidance and they had their mobile phone with them so they could have called a friend to ask if they know where the exit is. It could have been that the reason for the panic is a childhood experience, I will explain later, but I use hypnosis to find the reason. Once understood and reframed the brain no longer looks to the previous experience to know how to react. I then teach the client tools to take back the control, they can learn how to slow their heart beat down, they can learn how to stop shaking and sweating they just need to learn how to use their own mind to control their own body.

Does that mean that hypnotherapy is only about learning how to take control?
No it is much more in depth than that. As I explained in my January newsletter (please see my blog if you did not receive this) in hypnosis we can clear the subconscious mind of any emotions that may be affecting our day to day behaviour. Ordinarily to try and change something about ourselves we must use will power, to quit smoking for example or to keep up an exercise program. Will power is a product of the conscious mind. Although the conscious mind likes to think that it is in control it is really our subconscious mind with all of its past experiences that is controlling our behaviour. Every thought we have has an impact on us, negative or positive. No matter how much conscious effort we put into changing our habits the subconscious mind floods the body with messages that have been ingrained for years. So, in a normal hypnotherapy session I would use a technique known as hypno-analysis to reach the reasons that cause us to do the opposite from what we really want to do whilst at the same time teach you a large variety of techniques to help you deal with the problem symptom until it disappears forever.

I recently had a client, for the purposes of this we will call her Jenny. Jenny had recently started having panic attacks at 50 years of age. Jenny had always suffered from claustrophobia and although the panic attacks were not happening in claustrophobic situations they were giving the same feeling. Using hypno-analysis we went through a series of childhood memories in which Jenny felt that same feeling. It was always in the dark but not necessarily in confined spaces. The recent panic attacks were always happening at night, in the dark. Finally Jenny came to a memory of being 2/3 years old and playing in the garden shed. She then remembered getting stuck under a table, it was dark and confined. I asked Jenny if she felt the same feeling then but she said no. What she did feel however was extreme fear that she would be told off for playing in the shed. In the memory she could hear her parents calling her but was too terrified to emerge. Of course when she was found they were just happy, they had also been terrified that she had fallen in the pond. From that day on Jenny’s brain linked dark confined spaces with sheer terror and panic. Whenever she was in a place that resembled the space under the table she would feel afraid. Unfortunately this then grew into the panic attacks that she had started experiencing. Understanding why she was feeling like this and reframing it has allowed Jenny to take control of the panic attacks and no longer experience them.
Although I haven’t specified here why someone is not out of control when in hypnosis, it is interesting to note that medical professionals have determined that when a person is in a state of hypnosis they actually have more control over their mind and body that when not in hypnosis.

If you’re expecting black capes and fancy magician words that will make you do things against your will, you’ll be sadly disappointed. Hypnosis is a legitimate practice that is recognised by medical forums everywhere, and is a safe and healthy alternative treatment. Start asking around, I bet you know someone that has experienced hypnotherapy and will tell you how they now know how to use their own mind to control their own body.

One good way to begin to take control of your mind and body is to start saying I feel instead of I am. I feel stressed; I feel tired; I feel sad. YOU are not stressed; YOU are not tired; YOU are not sad. These things are just feelings that you may be experiencing. As soon as we let these things take over us we begin to lose control of ourselves.


How stress affects us

Stress is a normal physical response to events that make you feel threatened or upset your balance in some way. When you sense danger – whether it’s real or imagined – the body's defences kick into high gear in a rapid, automatic process known as the “fight-or-flight” response.

The fight-or-flight response was first described by Walter Cannon in 1929 so this goes back a long way. Doctors now call the body’s reaction to stress the General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS). There are three stages to the GAS, Cannon’s theory describes the first stage. He stated that animals react to threats with a general discharge of the sympathetic nervous system, priming the animal for fighting or fleeing.

Normally, when a person is in a serene, unstimulated state, the "firing" of neurons in the locus coeruleus, a nucleus in the brain stem involved with physiological responses to stress and panic is minimal.

When we sense danger or we sense an environmental stressor, now it’s important to note here this could include just a perception of danger, we relay the information from the sensory cortex of the brain through the hypothalamus to the brainstem.
Now the brain stem is very important as, though small it is through the brain stem that the nerve connections of the motor and sensory systems from the main part of the brain pass through to the rest of the body. So at this point the muscles tense, the heart beats faster, the breathing and perspiration increases, the eyes dilate and the stomach may clench. All of these things are actually done to keep us safe from the danger we sense, however this is just the beginning, just a very small amount of stress can affect the body quite dramatically.

Now the previous signalling process immediately increases the rate of noradrenergic activity in the locus coeruleus, and we become alert and attentive to the environment. We begin to produce epinephrine (adrenaline). Along with epinephrine, nor epinephrine also underlies the fight-or-flight response. As a stress hormone nor epinephrine affects parts of the brain where attention and responding actions are controlled, directly increasing heart rate, triggering the release of glucose from energy stores, and increasing blood flow to skeletal muscle.

The stress response is the body’s way of protecting you. When working properly, it helps you stay focused, energetic, and alert. Now for a moment imagine you are an antelope in the South African wilderness. Suddenly you look up and sense the presence of a huge lion. Now this antelope doesn’t think like you and I. He doesn’t say “hmm I sense a Lion I must get out my gun and shoot him dead”. No what happens is the fight or flight response kicks in. All of the actions I have described start to happen and the antelope does whatever he has to do to save himself. All of the things previously described would help this antelope.

As a human, in emergency situations, stress can save your life – giving you extra strength to defend yourself, for example, or spurring you to slam on the brakes to avoid an accident.

The stress response also helps you rise to meet challenges. Stress is what keeps you on your toes during a presentation at work, sharpens your concentration when you’re attempting the game-winning kick, or drives you to study for an exam when you'd rather be watching TV.

However as intelligent human beings we sometimes become stressed over things that we do not need to. Beyond a certain point, stress stops being helpful and starts causing major damage to our health, our mood, our productivity, relationships, and our quality of life.

Long-term exposure to stress can lead to serious health problems. Chronic stress disrupts nearly every system in your body. It can raise blood pressure, suppress the immune system, increase the risk of heart attack and stroke, speed up the aging process and of course contribute to infertility. Long-term stress can even rewire the brain, leaving you more vulnerable to anxiety and depression.

The body doesn’t distinguish between physical and psychological threats. When you’re stressed over a busy schedule, an argument with a friend, a traffic jam, or a mountain of bills, your body reacts just as strongly as if you were facing a life-or-death situation. If you have a lot of responsibilities and worries, your emergency stress response may be “on” most of the time. The more your body’s stress system is activated, the easier it is to trip and the harder it is to shut off.

With the release of “emergency” hormones throughout the body, the body is on alarm, and energy is directed toward the areas needed for actual “fight” or “flight” such as the arms and legs, and away from areas the brain considers less important. Once a chronic imbalance of the autonomic nervous system is created, only the regular and consistent practice of relaxation will facilitate the restoration of the parasympathetic nervous system.

Hypnotherapy provides an effective means of establishing that restoration.


Is a New Year’s Resolution “Something that goes in one year and out the other.” Oscar Wilde

The idea of New Year Resolutions goes all the way back to 153BC when Janus, a mythical king of early Rome was placed at the head of the calendar. Janus had two faces, one that could look back on the past year and the other that looked forward towards the New Year.

It was believed that Janus could forgive transgressions so many Romans would give gifts and make promises at the beginning of the new calendar year. Their belief was that Janus would see this and then bless their life for the entire year. Between 153BC and 46BD the official date of the New Year switched between January and March many times. In 46BC Julius Caesar changed the calendar for the final time to align it with the seasons. He made 1st January the official New Year Day. A legend began that on the last day of December at midnight Janus could see the past year and the coming year at the same time. Romans began making promises to Janus on the last day of December in the hopes that he would see their sincerity and help them attain their goals.

After the Roman Empire dissolved middle age Christians tried to remove the Roman traditions and make 25th December the beginning of the New Year however in the sixteenth century Pope Gregory XIII revised the calendar bringing the New Year back to 1st January and with it all previous traditions of New Year Resolutions but without Janus.

Statistics show that nearly 97% of resolutions are not kept. Why?

Learn how to keep your resolutions
Some of us make resolutions that are just not possible. It is always important to make sure that any resolutions made are attainable. Decide that you will join a gym and go once a week. As the habit of going once a week kicks in you can step up the pace and begin going twice a week. Eventually you may be able to increase this to three times a week maybe four. It is not easy to begin a new routine therefore trying to add something in to your day every day will be difficult and hard to stick at. Once a week is much easier.

Get help with sticking to your resolution. Becoming a non smoker involves a lot of willpower. Have some hypnotherapy to remove the need for willpower. Losing weight is not always easy if you have some psychological blockers. Have a few hypnotherapy sessions can remove the emotional attachment with food allowing you to eat a healthy diet naturally. Take this action as soon as you decide on the resolution. Putting things off could result in them not happening.

Be specific about your goals. HOW MUCH weight do you want to lose? HOW MANY new leads do you want to get at work? WHEN will you achieve this? HOW will you achieve this? You must have a written plan to achieve these goals.

Within your written plan set yourself targets and reward yourself when you have reached them. For example:

Goal: Lose three stone this year
Target: Lose five pounds by the end of January
Reward: A massage

Goal: Save £5000 this year
Target: Save £1000 by the end of March
Reward: £50 to spend on a new item of clothing

You can also reward yourself by finding a positive substitute for the old habit, for example if you are now a non smoker substitute cigarettes for a healthy snack that you really like. If you ever have a craving for a cigarette, eat your healthy snack instead. This helps you to take your mind off the old habit and rewards you for not reverting back.


Hypnosis and how it is used as a Therapy

Everyone enters a hypnotic state unknowingly every day.
Before you fall asleep and as you wake up you enter the hypnogogic and hypnopogic states.

However many people enter the deep state of relaxation that is hypnosis in many other situations. Whilst driving – how often do you arrive somewhere and wonder how you got there? Whilst at work – ever catch yourself staring into space for seconds but on looking at the clock realise it was minutes? Watching TV – ever had a partner/friend tap you as they had been talking to you but you could not hear? This deep state of relaxation is hypnosis. We can however also explore this by looking at the different brain waves.

Brain waves are categorised into four categories Beta, Alpha, Theta and Delta.

Beta 14-30Hz; this is the state of normal wakefulness and how we spend much of the day. One is awake and alert.

Alpha 8-13Hz; this is how we are when we are relaxed, eyes closed and daydreaming for example. These are the brain waves that come into use when we are really using our imagination. The conscious mind becomes less dominant and the subconscious comes more to the fore. These are the brain waves we get when zoning out and using meditation. When the alpha brain waves are in force we are in a light state of hypnosis.

Theta 4-7Hz; the theta state can be achieved by repetitive movement or sound. In this state the subconscious mind is totally dominant. When you are dreaming, in deeper hypnosis, meditating, or in the zone in sports, you are in theta. The theta state is what you will be in if in deep hypnosis, for some hypnoanaesthesia can be achieved. Hypnoanaesthesia occurs when clients are so deeply relaxed that surgeries can occur with sensation but without pain. Although theta occurs during drowsy, meditative or sleeping states it does not occur during the deepest stages of sleep.

Delta 0.5 – 4Hz; Delta is the unconscious state. It is where we are during the
deepest stages of sleep and the state at which we will not remember what is happening. The delta state could be a reason why many people forget what has happened during their hypnosis sessions. It is however not a state that any hypnotist wants their subject to go into because it goes against the definition of hypnosis, which is (defined briefly) a heighted state of concentration achieved through deep relaxation.

These definitions explain exactly how hypnosis works. When in the alpha or theta state the subconscious comes to the fore. It is the subconscious that a hypnotherapist works with. We can use this state to access repressed memories and emotions that may be attached to the problem in some way. Remembering the memory can allow the client to release any emotion that was not let out at the time or simply understand the memory from an adult view point opposed to the child’s. This is important because our brain reacts to certain situations by remembering the way we behaved the last time a similar situation occurred. This is fine if the previous reaction was positive but if it restricts us or negatively affects us in some way it is not good. For example if one learnt as a child to eat sweets when feeling bored this will continue into adulthood. Using hypnosis we can change that reaction to certain situations.


Exercise and Motivation

I usually go for a 30 minute run every morning. I do not particularly enjoy it but I am starting to realise why I do it. As the snow started I came down with a cough. Needing to use my voice in peace and quiet for my work I have not been running to try and lose the cough as quickly as possible. This ties in nicely with the vast amounts of snow outside!

I have noticed however that since not running I have felt tired and unmotivated. I often set my clients that suffer with stress and depression a weekly routine that involves lots of walking. I do this because I know how exercise can help lift the mood and increase motivation but why is this?

For a start exercise gets you up and out of the house. Personally I usually get up at 7.30am so that I can go for my run, get home showered and have breakfast in time to be sitting at my desk for 9am. With no run I do not need to get out of bed until, well it appears 8.45am. Although my alarm has been set for 8am the lack of exercise is making me tired and I am struggling to get up. With a run part of my day I get up at 7.30am without fail.

During my run I get to see the world. I run to the top of a hill so when running back down I have a nice view of the North Downs in front of me. Sometimes there is a beautiful blue sky other times it is raining but even the rain does not put me down as I know I will be jumping straight into the shower when I get home. Running in the rain can actually be quite liberating. If you are not one for the weather though going to the gym can allow you to have time to just be with yourself.

Exercise causes the brain to release serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine and endorphins. Serotonin acts as a neurotransmitter, a type of chemical that helps relay signals from one area of the brain to another. Because of the widespread distribution of its cells, it is believed to influence a variety of psychological and other body functions. Of the approximately 40 million brain cells, most are influenced either directly or indirectly by serotonin. This includes brain cells related to mood, sexual desire and function, appetite, sleep, memory and learning, temperature regulation, and some social behaviour.

Dopamine is another neurotransmitter and is essential to the normal running of the central nervous system. Tests have been done to show that when we consider alternative options whilst making real-life decisions, dopamine has a role in signalling the expected pleasure from those possible future events. We then use that signal to make our choices. Dopamine therefore plays an important role in our decision making but also our expected pleasure. When dopamine is released, it provides feelings of enjoyment and reinforcement, and motivates us to do or continue doing certain activities.

Norepinephrine is both a hormone and neurotransmitter. As a hormone it works alongside adrenaline to give the body sudden energy in times of stress. As a neurotransmitter it passes nerve impulses from one neuron to the next. Norepinephrine can increase alertness, increase reaction times, increase concentration and decrease drowsiness.

Endorphins are the body’s natural pain killers that also produce a positive mood state and reduce stress. When a nerve impulse reaches the spinal cord, endorphins are released which prevent nerve cells from releasing more pain signals. Immediately after injury, endorphins allow humans to feel a sense of power and control over themselves that allows them to persist with activity for an extended time. It is the effect of endorphin production that is known as the ‘runner’s high’.

It is easy to see that during exercise when these chemicals are produced our mood is lifted and we become motivated. The lack of norepinephrine in the body could contribute to the tiredness one experiences when having a break from a usually steady exercise regime. It is really important to make exercise a big part of our lives for more than just weight loss.